Brautigan > An Unfortunate Woman

This node of the American Dust website (formerly Brautigan Bibliography and Archive) provides comprehensive information about Richard Brautigan's novel An Unfortunate Woman: A Journey. Published in 1994, in France, USA First Edition published 2000, this was Brautigan's tenth published novel and published after his death in 1984. Publication and background information is provided, along with reviews, many with full text. Use the menu tabs below to learn more.

Publication

Publication information regarding Richard Brautigan's novel An Unfortunate Woman: A Journey.

First Edition

1994
Cahier d'un Retour de Troie [Return of the Woman of Troy]. Trans. Marc Chénetier. Paris: Bourgois.
First French edition and the first edition of this book

First USA Edition

2000
New York: St. Martins Press, 2000
5.75" x 8.25"; 110 pages; ISBN 0-312-26243-4; First printing May 2000
Hard Cover, with a wraparound red paper band in lieu of a dustjacket
White paper-covered boards.
Black titles on spine.

Covers

Front cover black and white photograph of Brautigan by Annie Leibowitz. This photograph appears on a wraparound red paper band used in lieu of a dustjacket.
Back cover black facsimile of a March-June 1982 calendar by Brautigan.

Proof Copy

Proof copy combined in a shrink-wrapped slipcase with Ianthe Brautigan's memoir of her father, You Can't Catch Death, May 2000.

Close

Background

First published in France in 1994 (USA first edition published 2000), An Unfortunate Woman: A Journey was Richard Brautigan's tenth published novel. Written before his death in 1984, this novel was published post-humously. The theme was an exploration of death through the oblique ruminations on the suicide death of one female friend, and the death by cancer of another, Nikki Arai.

Dedication

Nikki Arai died of a heart attack
on July 18, 1982, in San Francisco
after struggling against cancer
until her heart just stopped
beating. She was thirty-eight.
I sure am going to miss her.

Writing and Publication Timeline

Written during the summer of 1982, this novel was published posthumously, first in France in 1994 as Cahier d'un Retour de Troie (Diary of a Return from Troy), then, in 2000, in the United States and the United Kingdom by Brautigan's daughter, Ianthe Brautigan.

Brautigan apparently gave a copy of the manuscript for this book to Marc Chénetier while in Paris in 1984. According to Chénetier, Brautigan "gave me no reason outside of the fact he trusted me, on the basis of what I had already written on him (he had read my Methuen book, out in 1983), and already translated. [He was] relieved someone was treating his work for its literary make-up merits rather than out of some period anecdote-based fan cult he had no use for. [H]e thought I would like and understand it (we talked a lot about this and his other books) and hoped that I could translate it for a French publisher when the opportunity arose, since he was doubtful it would find a publisher in the United States at that stage. But perhaps he didn't have the heart to try that, any longer, and thought it easier this way? I don't know."

Chénetier choose the French title Cahier d'un Retour de Troie [Return of the Woman of Troy], "on the basis of conversations with Richard who wished the French title to pick up on a thread that runs through the text and shows up in several places (the book's epigraph in particular, but of course, the last line of the book too). Euripides was much in our conversations then. He wanted the idea of "coming back from Troy" in there, somehow. [This title] was the best formulation I could find in French of the one Richard had in mind. It has the familiar ring and lilt of Aimé Césaire's most famous work while the dated historical/mythological reference has the classical/ironical note Richard wished for. And clearly the "return" part finds its justification in the structural disposition and orientation of the text."

As for why the book was not published until 1994, Chénetier said, "I am not a publisher; I don't make this kind of decision. Christian Bourgois could not consider actually publishing the translation until a long time after I had the book translated. There were others to do before that, and other editorial tasks to pursue, I suppose" (Interview with Marc Chénetier, September 2006).

Close

Reviews

Reviews for Richard Brautigan's novel An Unfortunate Woman: A Journey are detailed below. See also reviews of Brautigan's collected works, and General Reviews for commentary about Brautigan's work and his place in American literature.

Reviews of First French Edition
David, Christophe. "Brautigan hors-champ." Le Matricule des Anges, Apr./June 1994, p. ***?**.

Says, "En 1983, Brautigan laisse un manuscrit à son traducteur Marc Chénetier. Premiète parution mondiale de ce roman interactif et prophétique

Au fur et à mesure qu'il avance dans la rédaction de ce qui sera son dernier roman, Brautigan voit son projet initial—"écrire un livre qui suivrait les événements de ma vie comme une carte-calendrier"—lui échapper. C'est que Cahier d'un retour de Troie n'est pas un "livre normal": il fait preuve de "malice chronologique et se plie de plus en plus à la façon dont la vie se déroule." Ce que veut Brautigan, c'est faire un livre plein, continu, sans rupture: "Je crois que j'ai compté les mots des premières pages de ce livre parce que je voulais éprouver le sentiment de sa continuité." Si ce Cahier d'un retour de Troie n'est pas "normal" c'est parce qu'il est le lieu d'une expérience-limite: celle qui consiste à abolir la distance entre la littérature et la vie. Brautigan s'y met en scène, écrivant le texte même que nous lisons. Il essaie d'écrire "en direct." Que le narrateur s'absente: "Je crois que je vais m'arrêter une seconde. Je vais me lever et aller me ballader un peu dans ce paysage du Montana," et il nous raconte ce qu'on pourrait appeler, par analogie avec le hors-champ cinématographique, le hors-texte: "Me revoilà. Oh, je suis allé marcher un peu du coté de chez mes voisins, toujours pas rentrés, et puis j'ai retraversé le torrent, la neige, etc." Il n'y a pas de "trous" dans ce livre qui égale la vie. A tel point que Brautigan renonce à toute maîtrise sur ce texte vivant, aussi vivant que l'épisode mexicain de Retombée de sombrero qui se développait indépendamment de son auteur dans une corbeille à papiers. Brautigan n'est plus l'auteur, il est le livre: "Être ce livre dans son devenir ne fait qu'accentuer mon désarroi au jour le jour." Au moment de conclure, il se dit incapable d'être ce livre et de l'avoir en main: "A ce stade, vous en savez plus que moi sur ce qui s'est passé avant. Vous avez lu le livre. Pas moi. Naturellement, il y a des choses que je me rappelle, mais je me trouve à présent très désavantagé. Au moment de finir, je me trouve littéralement au creux de votre main."

A l'abandon, à la dérive, ce récit est effectivement à l'image de la vie de Brautigan à l'époque où il l'écrit. A la mort symbolique de l'auteur que ce Cahier d'un retour de Troie met en scène succédera un suicide bien réel en 1984. Bien que possédé par la "folie" poétique pour laquelle on aime Brautigan—qui d'autre pourrait nourrir le "fantasme" de se faire photographier avec un poulet dans les bras à Hawaï, trouver exotique de manger un hot dog en Alaska, rêver de rencontrer une nouvelle maîtresse en faisant ses courses au supermarché ?—ce récit est pourtant traversé par l'évidence de la finitude. Un véritable sentiment tragique, qui n'a pas grand rapport avec le tragique au sens d'Euripide, s'y exprime: pour preuve, la très belle méditation sur le souvenir que suscite la visite du cimetière japonais de Hawaï. Mais si un fond d'angoisse le porte, ce texte n'est en rien la confession d'un auteur dépressif. "J'éprouve du plaisir à contempler le corps d'une femme qui s'ébroue dans les champs de l'intelligence," écrit-il. Et c'est avec une femme qu'il discute la très sérieuse question de la "moralité du suicide": "Je l'interromps en disant: "Montre-moi tes seins," et la femme me montre ses seins sans un seul temps mort dans la conversation comme si c'était la chose la plus naturelle du monde que je veuille voir ses seins pendant que nous sommes en train de parler du suicide." Et si ce suicide était un acte de vie et non pas une dernière tentative pour la contrôler?

See Also
David's review at the Le Matricule des Anges website.

Lebon, Richard. "Brautigan, le mort reconnaissant." Ab irato, Feb. 1995.

Says, "Déjà avec Mémoires sauvées du vent, Brautigan creusait une nouvelle voie dans la plaine de ses écrits, une sorte de petit chemin autobiographique où parmi les pierres du passé s'enroulait la poussière de son enfance. Pour ce faire, il n'utilisa qu'un matériel brut, un extrait pur de ses pensées, sans fioritures grammaticales ni extravagantes tournures, quelques clichés de souvenirs à peine modifiés.

Le Cahier d'un retour de Troie poursuit ce chantier à grands pas, fouillant les années et les remontant d'un trait jusqu'en 1982, vingt-huit mois juste avant le silence total et définitif qu'il choisira de s'imposer.

En employant ce procédé d'affinage, Brautigan modifie sensiblement son système d'écriture. D'une part, en abandonnant la syntaxe au profit du récit, il contraint les mots à adopter une certaine forme de simplicité. leur agencement au coeur des phrases est moins complexe, plus dépouillé et de ce fait, l'ensemble est moins attachant. Livrés tels quels au lecteur, ils ne remplissent plus le rôle de traducteur fantaisiste qui leur était assigné. Un phénomène inverse s'est créé. Son écriture s'est refermée, s'est resserrée sur elle-même, se mordant la queue à chaque ligne. Brautigan à présent semble tourner le dos à toutes ces petites choses délicieuses qui ont tissé les trames de son style, de son talent si particulier. Autrefois, c'était précisément grâce à cet étrange patchwork littéraire que son écriture sans cesse repoussait ses limites. Chaque mot était comme un véritable carrefour aux multiples sentiers où chacun y trouvait son compte. Ici, seule l'idée du carnet de voyage propose une issue à tout cela, et encore s'enlise-t-elle rapidement et finit-elle par s'effacer de l'histoire.

D'autre part, en délaissant quelque peu les exercices de son imagination, il impose une platitude presque fugitive à ses paroles. Les quelques images farfelues dont il se sert ne paraissent plus avoir la force d'imprégner les phrases et le peu de fois qu'elles y parviennent, c'est avec maladresse et une prompte désinvolture qui tendent à accentuer la profonde détresse qui file tout au long des pages. Envolées les comparaisons biscornues et délirantes du passé, il n'en reste plus que quelques traces fragiles qui ont peine à décoller de la réalité: "la phrase installe une réalité, un monde intrus, le vrai, vient perturber le déroulement de la phrase." Brautigan, ici, parle davantage des choses qu'il semble les écrire. Dès lors, ses obsessions, ses hantises de toujours sont dans cet ouvrage à peine dissimulées. Elles surgissent à tout instant, comme la mort (omniprésente tout au long de son oeuvre), lancinante toile de fond qui revient inlassablement, comme pour reprendre sa respiration entre les vagues de l'écriture. Cette fois-ci, Brautigan a pris soin d'en parler longuement, sans artifices. On la retrouve à tous les niveaux du récit, dans le moindre événement insignifiant ou non. Dans le titre original de l'ouvrage, dans cette femme pendue, dans cette étrange conversation téléphonique, dans la voiture dont le moteur "a pété," dans sa relation avec sa fille, dans le cimetière japonais d'Hawaii, jusque dans la phrase: "les mots sont des fleurs de néant", écrite pour cette femme atteinte d'un cancer. Dorénavant, il ne parat plus pouvoir se préserver de cette mort qui l'attire. Son écriture est impuissante à la masquer. En fait, elle n'a jamais été aussi proche de lui et surtout aussi semblable à elle-même. Comme précédemment, le processus s'est retourné. La mort est davantage vécue et ressentie et non plus évoquée comme un quelconque élément lointain de l'existence. Ce n'est plus comme dans certain événements de Sucre de pastèque (par exemple, lors de l'épisode du suicide collectif de la bande d'Inboil, où après la mort des parents du héros, dévorés par les tigres), où l'attitude volage des protagonistes finit par diluer la gravité des situations et la rendre presque imperceptible à nos yeux.

Brautigan a calqué le parcours des derniers jours de sa vie sur ce livre. On sent à travers lui et bien au delà l'approche d'une fin malheureuse, un peu comme ces films dont on sait à l'avance qu'ils se termineront mal. Réfugié dans ce carnet-calendrier, il a contemplé la mort des autres avant la sienne. Et on se demande si ce n'était pas pour savoir comment cela allait se passer, même si depuis longtemps, tout cela n'avait plus aucun secret pour lui.

Grimal, Claude. "Un Américain, Un Anglais—Richard Brautigan Cahier d'un Retour de Troie." [An American, An Englishman—Richard Brautigan Return of the Woman of Troy]. Quinzaine Littéraire, 15 July 1994, p. 10.

A synopis of this Brautigan novel.

Maitre, Luce-Claude. "Richard Brautigan: Cahier d'un Retour de Troie." Europe - Revue Litteraire Mensuelle, vol. 72, no. 784-785, Aug.-Sep. 1994, p. 215.

Reviews the French translation of An Unfortunate Woman. Says, "There are no screams in this story of darkness and sorrow . . . curious by its weightlessness, a story lightened by the author's irony toward himself and a certain drollery attempting, in vain, to conjure the disarray of a man convinced that he will never attain inner peace, or distance himself from all his problems. I have the feeling that this book is a labyrinth of questions semi-asked and connected to fragmented answers."

Reviews of First USA Edition
Anders, Smiley. "Tragedy Prevades Brautigan's Books." Sunday Advocate [Baton Rouge, LA], June 11, 2000, Sunday Advocate Magazine, pp. 12, 13.

Reviews both You Can't Catch Death by Ianthe Brautigan and An Unfortunate Woman. READ this review.

Anonymous. "Fishing for Truth: Brautigan's Only Child Confronts the Author's Death by Writing about His Life." People Weekly, 12 June 2000, p. 73.

The full text of this review reads, "Recently, Ianthe Brautigan did something that no one has done since her father, Richard Brautigan, died in 1984: She turned on his typewriter. "I felt that I was rubbing the genie's lamp and letting his spirit run around," she says.

Now, Brautigan's spirit may be doing cartwheels. Best known for Trout Fishing in America, a whimsical, surreal 1967 novel that sold millions, the San Francisco Bay-area writer has reemerged in his only child's You Can't Catch Death, a memoir that recalls his gentleness and the darkness that led to his suicide at 49. Ianthe, 40, also decided to publish his 11th—and last—novel, An Unfortunate Woman, previously available only in a 1994 French edition. Fellow author Thomas McGuane describes the stream-of-consciousness meditation as "fresh, guileless and unpredictable." Ianthe found in it "the father I knew and loved," she says. "I could hear his voice again."

One of the most influential writers of the '60s, Brautigan was a mischievous eccentric and doting father. Ianthe, who lived primarily with her mother, Virginia Aste (now a candidate for the U.S. House from Hawaii), hung out on weekends with her dad, spending long nights in restaurants watching him drink with pals. "We had a lot of fun," she says. "But his despair was horrifying."

Oddly, the counterculture hero thought Ianthe was too young to marry in 1981 (she and husband Paul Swensen, 41, a TV producer, live with daughter Elizabeth, 14, in Santa Rosa, California), and their conflict fuels part of Woman, which Ianthe at first found painful to read. Writing helped exorcise her sadness, and Ianthe feels closer to him than ever. "I couldn't save Dad. But I can embrace him."

Bell, Robert Edward. "The Endless Walk Of Richard Brautigan." Suite 101.com, 1 August 2003.

READ this review.

Bourgea, Yosha. "Gone Fishing: Writer Ianthe Brautigan Comes to Terms with Her Famous Father's Legacy." Sonoma County Independent, Sept. 14-20, 2000.

Reviews both You Can't Catch Death by Ianthe Brautigan and An Unfortunate Woman. Says, of An Unfortunate Woman, "The novel—which has been both praised and panned by critics—is written as an apparently haphazard pastiche of journal entries. Many of the events described in the book closely mirror events in Brautigan's own life." READ this review.

Bradfield, Scott. "California: It's A Jungle Out There; Books." The Times [London, England], 21 June 2000, p. 12.

Reviews both You Can't Catch Death by Ianthe Brautigan and An Unfortunate Woman. READ this review.

Carlson, Michael. "An American Original Way Out of Style: Michael Carlson on the Literary Legacy of a Psychedelic Hero." The Financial Times, 12 Aug. 2000, p. 4.

Reviews both You Can't Catch Death by Ianthe Brautigan and An Unfortunate Woman. Says An Unfortunate Woman, "is a fitful diary which begins with the death of a friend and follows Brautigan through a dismal six months of travel, failed relationships, writer's block and overwhelming loneliness. It is a deeply sad book, and would be so even if not read as an extended suicide note" (4). Concludes saying, "These books are not the best place to begin an acquaintance with Richard Brautigan's work, but read in concert they are a moving reminder for anyone who remembers the joys of discovering the strangely skewed vision of a most misunderstood American original. It's time for a new generation to make that discovery" (4). READ this review.

Duffy, Dennis. "A Daughter's Fitting Rescue." National Post [Ontario, Canada], vol. 203, no. 2, 17 June 2000, p. E13.

Reviews both You Can't Catch Death by Ianthe Brautigan and An Unfortunate Woman. Says, of An Unfortunate Woman, "[T]he novel An Unfortunate Woman [makes] its own substantial case for why Richard Brautigan never published it in his lifetime. What he calls "a calendar of one man's journey during a few months in his life" is a tabulation of failure. Something cold-hearted diffuses itself throughhout. The "unfortunate woman," a suicide, never develops into anyone other than an excuse for the writer's ramblings." READ this review.

Fraser, Christopher. "The Brautigan Library." The Dartmouth Contemporary, Summer 2000.

An online magazine for undergraduate book reviews published by Dartmouth College. Provides an overview of Brautigan's entire publication career as context for a review of An Unfortunate Woman, which he cites as "Richard Brautigan at his finest." Also discusses The Edna Webster Collection of Undiscovered Writings, and You Can't Catch Death by Ianthe Brautigan. READ this review.

Gard, Andrew. "Drama of Doomed Author Redeems Pedestrian Writing." The Plain Dealer, 16 July 2000, p. 12.

Reviews both You Can't Catch Death by Ianthe Brautigan and An Unfortunate Woman saying "neither has much to offer. . . . [But both] draw their strength from the circumstances under which they were created. Neither is particularly well written, neither contains any real insight. But within each lies the tragic drama of a doomed man, and it is this that redeems them both." Says An Unfortunate Woman is "A novel in name only. [It] reads more like a series of journal entries. . . . The scenes Brautigan describes are unexceptional. He watches a man eat a doughnut, contemplates a pigeon on a street corner, debates whether to take a walk. There is no attempt to create characters, plot or narrative tension. Even the deceased neighbor, the unfortunate woman of the book's title, is dealt with only in passing. Her purpose is to reflect Brautigan's dark state of mind" (12). READ this review.

Hall, Simon. "Ghost Laid to Rest." The Herald [Glasgow, Scotland], 20 July 2000, p. 22.

Reviews both You Can't Catch Death by Ianthe Brautigan and An Unfortunate Woman. Says An Unfortunate Woman "does lack the sustained energy and cohesion of some of Brautigan's other writings and, while there is a great deal here that will delight anyone who has enjoyed this author in the past, I can't quite agree with the publishers' assertion that this is a 'long-lost masterpiece.'" READ this review.

Hamlin, Andrew. "Two New Books Explore the Enigma of Brautigan." The Seattle Times, 23 July 2000, p. L8.

Reviews both You Can't Catch Death by Ianthe Brautigan and An Unfortunate Woman. Says, "As a companion piece [to You Can't Catch Death], An Unfortunate Woman, a notebook-sized "journey" found after Richard Brautigan's death but unpublished until now, provides his own take on the slow rustle of despondency. . . . If Ianthe learned to mourn her father as a lost son, perhaps her father mourns, through the unfortunate woman, the mother he ran away from, the grandmother Ianthe eventually finds" (L8). READ this review.

Harrington, Michael. "'An Unfortunate Woman: A Journey'; 'You Can't Catch Death: A Daughter's Memoir'." The Philadelphia Inquirer, 31 Aug. 2000, p. **?**.

Originally syndicated Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service 30 August 2000: K2502. Reviews both You Can't Catch Death by Ianthe Brautigan and An Unfortunate Woman. Says, "An Unfortunate Woman is the record of an obsessive writer winding down, slowly losing faith in his abilities. It's like reading a suicide note disguised as a novel." READ this review.

Reprinted
"Autobiography Could Lead To Revisiting Brautigan's Work." Chicago Tribune, 12 Sept. 2000, Section 5, p. 3.
Reprints and retitles 30 August 2000 review from The Philadelphia Inquirer.

"Remembering the Troubled Man behind Richard Brautigan Craze." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 13 Sep. 2000: CUE Section, p. 03E.
Reprints and retitles 12 September 2000 review from Chicago Tribune.

Hoffert, Barbara. "An Unfortunate Woman: A Journey." Library Journal, vol. 125, no. 12, July 2000, p. 90

The full text of this review reads, "Opening this 'last unpublished novel' of Brautigan, as it is billed, the reviewer panics: will this be another of those unedited messes dragged out so that we can enjoy a bit of nostalgia? But no, after the wistful letter to a dead friend ("an unfortunate woman") that affectingly opens the book, the first few lines of text proper deliver an image—small, ordinary, but astounding—of a woman's shoe lying in an intersection 'sparkl[ing] like a leather diamond.' The page reverberates, and we know that we are in the hands of a writer who earned his cult status. The other shoe doesn't drop for a while, and in the meantime we are treated to a freefall monologue as the narrator of this semiautobiographical tale wanders from Canada to Hawaii to Alaska, reminiscing, collecting images, and reflecting on his friend's suicide (which obviously presaged his own). A little loose-jointed, this is still wonderful writing. For all collections of contemporary literature."

Hoffert, Barbara. "Prepub Alert." Library Journal, January 2000, p. 62.

Notes that Brautigan's An Unfortunate Woman is forthcoming in May saying, "In Brautigan's last unpublished novel, the protagonist faces one friend's cancer and another's suicide."

Jackson, Mick. "Eternal Hippy: Mick Jackson on Richard Brautigan: An Unfortunate Woman, You Can't Catch Death by Ianthe Brautigan." The Guardian [Manchester, England], 5 August 2000, Saturday Section, p. 8.

Reviews both You Can't Catch Death by Ianthe Brautigan and An Unfortunate Woman. READ this review.

Kušnír, Jaroslav. "Popular Autobiography and Travel Book in One (Richard Brautigan's An Unfortunate Woman: A Journey, 2000)." American Fiction: Modernism-Postmodernism, Popular Culture, and Metafiction. ibidem-Verlag, 2007, pp. 142-150.

READ this review.

Lehoczky, Etelka. "Last Words, Sort Of." The New York Times Book Review, 16 July 2000, p. 21.

The full text of this review reads, "When someone takes his own life, it's tempting to interpret everything he did and said near the end as a kind of warning. Such compulsive reductionism is particularly difficult to avoid in reading An Unfortunate Woman: A Journey, a book-length work Richard Brautigan completed a year before his suicide in 1984. In it, Brautigan creates what he calls "a calendar of one man's journey during a few months in his life" that, though labeled as fiction by its publisher, reads like memoir. The title refers to a friend who had killed herself and whose absence is the book's organizing force. Under the shadow of this event, Brautigan's familiar mix of wry stories and observations takes on a persistent mordancy. There are certainly moments here when he revels in the absurd, as when he relates his determination, while visiting Hawaii, to pose for a photo with a chicken. More often, though, he adopts a subdued tone that will surprise fans of his famously playful novels. After devoting so much thought to the question of individual freedom in a corrupt world, Brautigan seems here to concede, finally, that some things are inescapable. He dedicates his introduction to another friend who had recently died from cancer. It's possible to read countless other elements of the book as intimations of mortality, from Brautigan's compulsive traveling to his habit of concluding many sections with a date and the word "finished." But just as evident, though overshadowed by subsequent events, is the author's determination to resist the bleak certitude of death. "Life cannot be controlled and perhaps not even envisioned and . . . design and portent are out of the question," he notes at one point. Such a statement—along with the rest of An Unfortunate Woman—can be read as an expression of Zen-like peace or of helplessness verging on despair."

Marshall, John. "New on the Bookshelves for Brautigan Fans." Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 19 May 2000, p. 28.

The full text of this review reads, "Richard Brautigan was the writer who captured the tangerine dream flavor of the 1960s better than almost anyone. The Tacoma native, who grew up in Washington and Oregon, had a remarkable flair for language and image in such pop classics as Trout Fishing in America (3 million copies in print).

But Brautigan's life was bedeviled by alcoholism, and he committed suicide in 1984. In the subsequent years, Seattle and the Northwest have remained the prime market for his wonderfully idiosyncratic novels.

Now comes his daughter, Ianthe, with a new memoir of her father's troubled life, You Can't Catch Death (St. Martin's Press), which she will support with readings next week at the University Book Store and The Elliott Bay Book Co. The daughter, who was 24 when her father died, has produced an episodic, quirky work that recalls her father's approach.

The memoir comes at the same time as the welcome publication of Richard Brautigan's last work, An Unfortunate Woman (St. Martin's Press). This slim novel, much about death, takes the form of a traveler's journey and is pure Brautigan.

Brautigan's many fans include writer Tom Robbins of La Conner, who said recently, "I do think more people should know about him, absolutely. I think Trout Fishing in America is one of the most important post-modernist works of fiction. There's never been a novel like it for a long, long time."

Notes, at the conclusion of his review, "The daughter of writer Richard Brautigan, Ianthe Brautigan reads from her memoir, "You Can't Catch Death," and also from her father's newly discovered last novel, "An Unfortunate Woman," 5 p.m., The Elliott Bay Book Co., 101 S. Main St. 206-624-6600."

Marshall, John. "Readings and Signings." Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 12 May 2000, p. 26.

Notes that Ianthe Brautigan will read the following Thursday. Says, "Brautigan is the daughter of local writer Richard Brautigan, who committed suicide in 1984. She reads from her memoir, "You Can't Catch Death," and also from her father's newly discovered last novel, "An Unfortunate Woman," 7 p.m., University Book Store, 4326 University Way N.E. 206-634-3400."

Pohl, R. D. "Brautigan's Last Book, Daughter's Memoir Cast Light on a Dark Subject." The Buffalo News (Buffalo, NY), 1 Oct. 2000, p. F7.

Reviews both You Can't Catch Death by Ianthe Brautigan and An Unfortunate Woman. READ this review.

Reynolds, Susan Salter. "Discoveries: An Unfortunate Woman." Los Angeles Times, 4 June 2000, p. L11.

The full text of this review reads, "This is the last of Richard Brautigan's novels, found by his daughter after his suicide in 1984. It's a wandering, obviously unfinished novel, a meditation upon but not about a woman who has hanged herself. That image sits in the center of the book like a bowl of fruit in a still life, but its story is never told. This is the legendary bravery of the beats: the connections between the dots are often left undrawn. Things, details and thoughts seem to align themselves, pointing to true north, to meaning, if—and only if—the writer is a good compass. To be a good compass takes honesty. Writers like Brautigan and Kerouac in the late '50s and '60s worked hard to step outside the American current, outside the rat race. Brautigan makes frequent reference to the effort of staying still (on true north) in this novel of his mind's wandering. His contagious valor makes you notice details (like the kitchen table so reminiscent of the writing of Virginia Woolf and Raymond Carver, an emblem of stillness) you might never have. In the end, he could quiet his mind only by dying" (11). Also reviews separately You Can't Catch Death by Ianthe Brautigan.

Ring, Kevin. "Richard Brautigan." Beat Scene, vol. 37, no. 16-18.

An interview with Ianthe Brautigan. Reviews and discusses both her memoir You Can't Catch Death and her father's posthumous novel An Unfortunate Woman. Says An Unfortunate Woman is "a slim book but in possession of all the characteristics that won Brautigan a legion of admirers way back when." READ this review.

Seaman, Donna. "When the Trout Stream Runs Dry." The Booklist, 1 June 2000, p. 1835.

Reviews both You Can't Catch Death by Ianthe Brautigan and An Unfortunate Woman. A publication notice appears on page 1852 and refers readers to "boxed review on p. 1835."

The full text of this review reads, "Richard Brautigan, the author of 11 works of fiction, including Trout Fishing in America, and nine books of poetry, achieved 'rock-star-like-fame,' to use his daughter's phrase, in the 1970s, but his later works were lambasted by critics; his demons got the better of him, and he took his own life in 1984. A collection of never-before-published early works appeared in 1999, and now comes his final novel, accompanied by his daughter's poetically episodic memoir.

"Born in 1960, Ianthe Brautigan possesses vivid recollections of her affectionate but elusive father. She describes his expressive hands, the nails bitten to the quick; his writing rooms; their walks in San Francisco (Brautigan didn't drive); and their sometimes idyllic, sometimes harrowing life on a Montana ranch. Brautigan was a binge drinker, and his daughter writes with empathy and restraint about the troubling consequences, including the nights he burned all the phones and shot the hours out of a kitchen wall clock. Brautigan told her that drinking was that only way he could get rid of the 'steel spiderwebs' in his mind. Clearly, Ianthe has worked her way through a great vale of sorrow to be able to convey the essence of her father's life, and the complex nature of their loving but tragic relationship, with such deftness and resonance.

"Brautigan's last novel, written in the form of a journal, embodies the melancholy his daughter's memoir unveils and incorporates many autobiographical details. His signature leaps into wild metaphor and fantasy feel forced and weary, and death is everywhere present. His narrator has just turned 47 and is mourning the suicide of one friend, worrying about the serious depression of another, and grieving for a third, who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. He recounts a hectic travel itinerary, explains that he is having trouble keeping "the past and the present functioning simultaneously," and admits that he feels helpless in the face of his (true-to-life) estrangement from his daughter over her marriage. 'A terrible sadness is coming over me,' Brautigan writes, thus turning his novel into a long suicide note from a man whose gifts for language and story were once so buoyant he seemed to walk on water."

Steinberg, Sybil S. "An Unfortunate Woman: A Journey." Publishers Weekly, 15 May 2000, p. 86.

The full text of this review reads, "Eerily foreshadowing the 1984 suicide of its author, counterculture legend Brautigan, this previously unpublished book is a semiautobiographical description of one man's experience of the classic symptoms of depression. The narrator, clearly the talented, alcoholic, sexually questing Brautigan, explains his rambling account as 'a calendar of one man's journey during a few months of his life.' The episodic entries, dating from January to June of 1982, at first seem whimsically random, as the narrator recounts a peripatetic six months wandering among Montana, Berkeley, Hawaii, San Francisco, Buffalo, the Midwest, Alaska, Canada and points in between, but soon it's obvious that a preoccupation with death is the dominant theme. The narrator stays at various times in the house of 'an unfortunate woman' who hanged herself, and the event darkens his consciousness even when he is not physically there. Meanwhile, another friend is dying of cancer, and this, too, contributes to his morbid state of mind. Financial troubles, estrangement from his daughter, insomnia, a deepening dependence on drink and the confession that he feels 'very terribly alone' add up to a picture of a man whose melancholy will reach the breaking point. Even so, Brautigan maintains his ironic humor and his abiliy to write clear, often crystalline prose, though at time his mannerisms—repetition of a pedestrian thought, a habit of attaching cosmic significance to a mundane event, such as an Alaskan crow eating a hot dog bun—become irritating. Yet the reader cannot help being moved by this candid cri de coeur of a soul in anguish, and to his fans, these last words will be a book to treasure. FYI: An Unfortunate Woman is being issued in tandem with You Can't Catch Death, a memoir written by Brautigan's daughter, reviewed in this issue's Nonfiction Forecasts."

Uschuk, J. "St. Martin's Offers Two Perspectives On The Late Richard Brautigan: His and Hers." Tucson Weekly, 22-28 June 2000, p. 28.

Reviews both You Can't Catch Death by Ianthe Brautigan and An Unfortunate Woman. READ this review.

Veale, Scott. "New & Noteworthy Paperbacks: An Unfortunate Woman." The New York Times Book Review, 4 Nov. 2001, p. L36.

The full text of this review reads, "Finished a year before the author's suicide in 1984, this "calendar of one man's journey through a few months in his life" is labeled fiction but reads more like memoir, blending wry stories with intimations of mortality. "He adopts a subdued tone that will surprise fans of his famously playful novels," Etelka Lehoczky wrote here last year."

Way, Brian T. W. "Brautigan's Unfortunate Woman: Of the Journey and Grace."

Excerpted from Of Fiction, Film and Fish: Richard Brautigan's Metaficational Romance, a work in progress. READ this review.

Close
Back to Top